OTD in History… July 3, 1863, Civil War Battle of Gettysburg ends
By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS
On this day in history July 3, 1863, the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg ends after three days of fighting; it was the largest battle on American soil. Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia with 75,000 soldiers met new Union General George Meade’s Army of the Potomac with 83,000 soldiers on July 1 and engaged in an unplanned battle. Lee was coming off a decisive victory at Battle of Chancellorsville in May and was making his second attempt to invade the North. It would prove a costly mistake for the Confederacy and the crucial victory the North needed.
On the first day, the Confederates were able to push the Union back but over the next two days, the outnumbered Confederates were never again able to break the Union’s lines. On the third day, Lee made his last attempt to break the Union center on Cemetery Ridge, where General George Pickett led 15,000 Confederate troops in Pickett’s Charge against 10,000 Union soldiers, suffering a striking blow within a couple of minutes with 7,000 troops killed or wounded. By the end of July 3, 28,000 Confederates and 23,000 Union soldiers were killed in the battle. Lee retreated to the Potomac and Virginia and never attempted to invade the North again.
The battle was a turning point in the war, from which the Confederates would never recover. As Civil War historian James McPherson indicates in his book Battle Cry of Freedom, “Lee and his men would go on to earn further laurels. But they never again possessed the power and reputation they carried into Pennsylvania those palmy midsummer days of 1863. Though the war was destined to continue for almost two more bloody years, Gettysburg and Vicksburg proved to have been its crucial turning point.” The blood-soaked battleground would become a cemetery and on November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln dedicated the battlefield burial ground giving his Gettysburg Address. Lee would surrender in April 1865 ending the war.
McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.